Archive | September, 2014

Justice Mail Action 21 September 2014

Dear All Saints Justice Mail Friends,

Mahmood was 15 when he was taken by soldiers to a military facility. There he was beaten with gun butts, covered in melted plastic and forced to watch executions. Children and adults are routinely tortured in Nigeria. Urge the police and military to stop.

Use the Amnesty link below to petition the Nigerian Police and Military to stop using torture.

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/nigeria-stop-medieval-witch-hunt

Yours faithfully,
Mike Cross
All Saints Justice Mail

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From All Saints Magazine February 2014

Disability in the Bible

I was once in the unusual situation, as a blind academic, of supervising the research of a blind ordinand. She said to me “Why couldn’t he just accept us? He mixed with tax gatherers and sinners, but whenever he met a disabled person, he healed them!”

It occurred to me then that this is why there were no disabled people among the close disciples of Jesus: he would have healed them! One gets the impression that the very act of healing amounted to becoming a disciple. In Mark 10: 46-52 when Bartimaeus has his sight restored, he follows Jesus on the way – an expression used in the early Church for becoming a Christian. Throughout the Bible certain disabilities, particularly loss of sight and sound, symbolise disobedience to God. In John 9:39, Jesus describes his mission as giving sight to the sightless and making blind those who see. In Mark 7:32-37 Jesus heals a man who was hard of hearing and had no speech.

There is no doubt that in the Bible and the tradition of the Church blindness and deafness have become expressions of unbelief. The well-known hymn, ‘O For a Thousand Tongues’, declares:

“Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,

Your loosen’d tongues employ;

Ye blind, behold your Saviour come,

And leap, ye lame, for joy.”

Today, it can be argued that these are only metaphors. This depends upon your point of view. An expression such as “inward blindness” is certainly metaphorical but the metaphor comes from the sighted world and equates the condition with spiritual or psychological indifference or insensitivity. Negative expressions about disability are found in everyday speech, as in a ‘blind disregard’ or ‘blind rage’ and indicate prevailing social attitudes.

When you lose sight in later life, it is often a crushing blow to your self-esteem. A reason for this is that you internalise all of the negativity toward blindness which you had absorbed as a sighted person. Worse, you also internalise the ancient connection between disability and sin that lives on in our culture, where disability is perceived as a punishment. Hence the question, “What have I done to deserve this?”

Social attitudes can disable people as much as having a part of your body or mind that doesn’t function correctly. If I lose my legs in a road accident, a wheelchair will restore my mobility, but at the entrance to church, I encounter a step. What disables me now, by preventing me from joining the congregation, is the failure of the built environment to recognise human diversity.

Some things are difficult to change; others fairly easy; a few impossible. Hope, imagination and the refusal to accept limits can make the impossible fairly easy. We cannot change the text of the Bible and its shadows of ancient social customs and prejudice. We can interpret the miracle stories so as to encourage inclusion and not leave disabled people feeling that there must be something wrong with their faith. We can change the words of our hymns. We can omit verses which include negative metaphors about disability. We can remove steps to the church building and to the altar.

Most of all, we can learn how to change our own attitudes toward disabled people. Please don’t feel the need to care for or pity us. Just greet us, talk to us, nurture us into positions of leadership in the Church, and let us together build a place where all are welcome.

John Hull

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From All Saints Magazine 13th January 2014

Christianity or Christian Faith?

 I have some questions about the word ‘Christianity’. Although three times in the New Testament the word ‘Christian’ appears, it was not widely used.  St Paul, for example, never once describes himself as Christian, and the word ‘Christianity’ never appears.  The first Christians spoke of their faith as being ‘the way’ and although there was a medieval form of the word ‘Christianity’, it did not enter into popular usage until the 16th and early 17th centuries.  It then came to mean the organised body of systematic doctrine which constitutes the faith of the Christian church.

The reason it appeared at that time was because of the European voyages of discovery. Sacred buildings had been found, with statues and behaviour that looked like worship which were not Christian.  The Europeans gave words to these kinds of religion, calling the one found in India ‘Hinduism’, the one in Japan was called ‘Shinto’, in China it became ‘Buddhism’, and in pre-literate cultures it was called ‘animism’.  As a matter of fact, the only great religion which was not named by Europeans is Islam, which named itself.

It was necessary to give a distinguishing name to the European form of faith which had previously simply been known as ‘religion’ or ‘faith’. In the Middle Ages of Europe, we speak of ‘Christendom’, and ‘Christianity’ may be regarded as the successor to Christendom.  Christianity is the competitive name for ‘our’ religion as distinct from other religions.  In a way, it expresses on the religious plane, the competition between countries and empires that has been typical of modernity.

The period of ‘Christianity’ is now passing away, up to a point. It is hard to find a word to describe what should follow it, but I prefer simply to speak of ‘Christian-ness’ or ‘Christian faith’. Christian faith is older than Christianity, and will survive it.  A new kind of non-competitive Christian faith is emerging, consisting of discipleship to Jesus Christ.  It may be called ‘the way of Jesus’, or simply ‘Christian faith’.

All three of these stages in the way Christians have understood their faith may still be found today. Suppose there is a church and a mosque on opposite sides of the same road.  A Christendom church will simply ignore the mosque.  A Christianity church will compete with the mosque and try to convert the Muslims.  A Christian-ness church will seek understanding with the mosque, and will work together on justice and peace issues.  Which type of church is closest to the Kingdom of God?  Where would All Saints Kings Heath fit into this sequence?  Are all three types present in our congregation?  Are we changing, and if so, in what direction?

John M Hull

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Justice Mail action 5th Sep 2014

Dear All Saints Justice Mail Friends,

The greed of the vulture funds forcing Argentina into a new debt default this summer has shocked the world into action.

More than 100 developing countries have got together at the United Nations to demand a new way of dealing with debt crisis, to make sure vulture funds can no longer profit from a nation’s misery. An initial vote is expected on Tuesday.

We’ve got five days to try and influence how the UK votes on this potentially historic proposal.

Use the Jubilee Debt Campaign Link below to ask the UK to support action against vulture funds

 

http://jubileedebt.org.uk/actions/tell-uk-support-action-vulture-funds

 

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Mike Cross

All Saints Justice Mail

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